Typical – Exhibiting the qualities or characteristics that identify a group or kind or category.
I’ve been re-reading many of my blog posts from the last 5 years. And the word that seems to pop up the most throughout is the word “Typical.” It’s funny to go back and read old musings. So much has changed in the almost 5 years we’ve been on this journey with our daughter. The thing that has remained constant to the bitter end, however, has been to achieve the status of “Typical.”
Let’s be really honest, here. Abigail has never been typical. A typical newborn arriving into the world 16 weeks early wouldn’t typically breathe on her own. But she did. A typical Micro-Preemie typically has at least one surgery during an extended NICU stay. But she didn’t have any. If you’ve been following along all these years, you’ve been privy to every time she did something atypical for whatever standard we were measuring her against. I’ve lost count at this point.
As time went on, I wrote less and less on this blog. Some of that was due to how exponentially busy one gets, caring for a small child. Then add a second small child to the mix and extra availability gets sucked into some sort of vortex. Truly, though, the main reason was because I had less and less to share. Obstacles became less frequent, problems came with less drama, and we saved our celebrations for the really big milestones. Abigail was becoming more typical by the day.
Abigail and I have been walking this path together for 1,811 days, all with one goal on our minds – for her to be “Typical” by age 5. Now, this goal was not at all arbitrary. I did not set out to hand her some all-encompassing ultimatum that meant “failure” if we didn’t meet it. Age 5 is a significant milestone for any child, as it is typically (there is that word again!) when a child starts school. That was truly the goal: For Abigail to start Kindergarten as a TYPICAL child with her 5-year-old peers. This has been the standard we have held everything against since we brought her home.
It has been a daunting, time consuming, emotionally draining task. One that has brought just as many tears as it has brought smiles. I am writing this post to share with all of our followers that we are only 15 days away from that deadline: her 5th birthday. We are only a few months away from the start of Kindergarten and the end of our story. I only plan to write 2 more posts on the subject. But most importantly, I am here to share that we’ve met our goals.
Abigail has needed 3 kinds of therapy in her short half decade. At age 3 months she started Occupational Therapy, and tested out of it at age 3. At age 13 months she started modified physical therapy and tested out of it within 6 months. And at 18 months old she started Speech therapy. This is the therapy we have struggled with the longest. At age 3, she “aged out” of the state system for early intervention, but was still testing at more than a year behind. She was moved into the school system at that point and we’ve seen “Miss Karen” (her Speech and Language Pathologist) twice a week EVERY WEEK for the last 2 years.
Karen came to me a little over a month ago and set up the end of the year testing we’ve become so accustomed to – but she added in, “I honestly don’t think she’ll qualify for further services.” I was skeptical. I’m not sure why, as anyone who has had a conversation with Abigail lately can tell you – she speaks extremely well. 2 weeks ago, Karen administered the test and told me Abigail did “well.” No idea what that meant at the time.
This past Friday, I went in for Abigal’s IEP. It’s the annual “here is where we are at” meeting where we discuss the goals we have met, vs. the goals we didn’t, and where we go from here. This was where Karen delivered the following news:
Abigail didn’t just “Test Out” of speech therapy. She blew the test out of the water. For example: One of the goals from last year’s IEP was that her “Vocabulary was intelligible at least 75% of the time.” This means that a stranger would be able to understand 75% of what she says. She could not do this a year ago. But her latest test indicates she is speaking with 92% intelligibility. This is high for a typical child, let alone a speech delayed child. Another example are the numbers the tests spit out. I don’t claim to understand one sliver of how they come up with these numbers… I just understand what they mean. She scored an 8, an 8, a 16, a 16, and an overall score of 18. To qualify for further services, you must score 6 or less in 2 categories and/or less than 8 overall. 8’s are on the low end of average, meaning she needs some improvement, but the skills are still “emerging” as they say. 16’s and an 18 are on the high end of average. I’m told that a “Typical” child would score between 13 and 17 across the board.
I was informed that, with these scores, the school district could no longer offer Abigail speech therapy. We’d done it. She will be entering Kindergarten as a mainstream, typical child, with no extra services. It was so odd to hear. When she tested out of OT and PT, I did a little happy dance. Whoo-hoos and clapping and a feeling of true accomplishment as we moved further away from “special needs” and closer to typical. But for this announcement… I just sat there. It didn’t really sink in. I almost asked, “Are you sure?” because this particular part of our life has been such a constant for so long. But the numbers didn’t lie. They stared at me on that piece of paper, and finally, I signed on the dotted line, agreeing with their decision.
Abigail was granted one last session, which we will attend tomorrow morning, for emotional purposes. Its her chance to say goodbye to Miss Karen. And we will walk out of that classroom for the last time, as we prepare for her Pre-School graduation next week, then her first summer of Camp, and onward to Kindergarten in the fall. I really can’t believe it.